We tend to elect people based on narrow factors. A position on a key issue, political affiliation, "heroism," charisma. But even when we step back and look more expansively, we may get stuck at ideology.
What the world needs now from its leaders is systems thinkers, people capable of seeing the interrelationships in the world as they exist — and not as they fit in their predetermined categories.
By this measure, the Staggering Mavericks — whose thought processes seem untethered and whose interest in the future seems based on the past — are spectacularly unsuitable. The Hopeful President is better in terms of how he approaches problems, but as yet has not yet talked about the developing future that more and more of us can see.
In Sunday's New York Times, Michael Pollan offers an example of the creative thinking we really need from our leaders in his open letter to the next president.
[W]ith a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close.
[M]ake the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate . Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain.
After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study.
Food, oil, health, transportation, housing, water, environment, trade, world peace — it's all there, all connected.
The typical major party politician would not touch this. (Maybe you can find me one who has — and has actually been elected to do something about it.) The framing makes the problem too large, too frightening and too antithetical to a comfortable way of life to bring this kind of discussion forward.
I have met people in various government jobs who are starting to think in these terms, but they are overwhelmed with the day to day. In this patch-the-boat era of governing, the future is a frill.
But eventually, it becomes the present.